In Transit in Bangkok

June 26, 2016 ASEAN Backpacking

Bangkok is one of my most visited cities outside the Philippines. I went there recently to take a train going to Chiang Mai.  I wanted to go straight to Chiang Mai but my friends told me I should experience the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  From where I am from, trains are the worst kind of transportation anyone could take. 

They were coming from Cambodia.  They started in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, proceeded to Phnom Penh, then to Siem Reap, which is a route I have already taken.  I would have loved to join them, but I needed to save money.  So, we decided to just meet in Bangkok. 

I arrived in Bangkok City shortly after midnight.  An accommodation was arranged for me at Suneta Hostel Khaosan.  I really thought I would be staying on Khao San Road and I had planned to stay up until morning.  After all, Pico Iyer wrote that Bangkok is best experienced at 3:00 AM.  But, Suneta was in an unfamiliar street called Kraisi Road, the only interesting establishment I saw in that street was a pad thai food truck parked in front of the hotel and it already hung its closed sign, and the street was not lit up as Pico Iyer described it.  So, I hit the sack and planned a full day of wandering.

Being tourist

The following day, the street was lined up with garment stalls.  I browsed on a few items they were selling.  Then, armed with the little map and calling card from Suneta’s reception desk, I went on my way to flaneur. 

After a few steps, I saw the familiar sites – the souvenir stalls, the street food, foot massage areas, and the bars. I knew I was already in the Bangkok I am familiar with.  I noted where the 7/11s are and took some pics.  I was already halfway when I realized I was already in Soi Rambuttri, my favorite street in Bangkok.

Soi Rambuttri is parallel to the backpackers’ mecca, Khao San Road.  Some describe it as the well-behaved brother of Khao San Road and a lot of backpackers are already gravitating towards this street.

Despite all the restaurant options, and a lot of them look really interesting, I ended up in my usual place, ordering my usual food and smiling at the usual people.

The rest of the day was spent doing what most tourists do in Bangkok – shopping, having foot massages, eating and drinking.

Temple Hopping

My friends arrived the night before and we scheduled a full day of temple hopping in Bangkok City and Ayutthaya, which is an hour away from Bangkok.

It was a different Kraisi Road at 7:00 in the morning.  The street was lined up with fruits and flower stands.  The night before, it was all street food. 

Bangkok is really a city of surprises. It is also a city of contrast.  In between Bangkok’s busy roads are the gold-painted spires of its Buddhist temples. 

Our itinerary that morning was the three must-see temples of Bangkok - Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun.

Wat Phra Kaew is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  The temple is one of the city’s most popular attractions.  Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the Buddha and should be wearing modest attires. 

The famous ‘Reclining Buddha’ is the centerpiece of Wat Pho. The colossal 46-meter-long reclining Buddha is housed in a purpose-built building.  There are several other Buddha images in the complex also. 

Wat Pho is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai Massage.

Across the river is the iconic Wat Arum or ‘Temple of the Dawn’. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun.  The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colorful porcelain.


Leaving Bangkok

After a whole afternoon exploring Ayutthaya, we rode a train to Chiang Mai. 

Bangkok was difficult to leave.  I knew I would miss its plethora of colors, the familiar chaos, and the duality of its character.   I was there in transit, same as the previous times I was there, but it always gives me my happiest memories.  I promised myself again that I would come back and spend more time in Bangkok. 

Until next time, Bangkok!

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